Stephen Fry Narrates Two Animated Videos Explaining How Fear, Loathing & Misinformation Drove the Brexit Campaign

For millions watching in the UK and around the world, anticipating the looming Brexit deadline over the past two years has been like watching the slowest train wreck in history. But for those not following the coverage daily, the impending UK secession from the European Union is mystifying. Just how many trains are there, and where are they coming from, and how fast, exactly, are they going?

From the future of food and drug imports, to the status of the “currently invisible” border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to all of the legal minutiae no one mentioned during the campaign, the consequences of the recent failure of a Brexit deal could be disastrous. Were “leave” campaigners honest in their sale of Brexit to the voters? Did they have any idea how such a thing would work? Ample evidence shows the answer to both questions is an unqualified No.

The Vote Leave campaign director now describes the referendum as a “dumb idea.” Wealthy UK residents, including many a Brexit politician, are fast moving their assets out of the country. So how did Brexit get sold to voters if it’s such a potential catastrophe? The usual methods worked quite well, Stephen Fry explains in the video above.

By stoking xenophobic fears over migrants and refugees, Brexiteers, he says, created “false assumptions about the EU, some very dark, and some comical.” They were assisted in conjuring a “mythical EU dragon” by tabloid journalists who called migrants “cockroaches” and “feral humans.” Rhetoric indistinguishable from Nazi propaganda drove a spike in hate crimes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Despite the insistence of many voters that their choice was not driven by racial animus, the Brexit campaign, like the Trump campaign, Fry says above, undeniably was. The consequences of these votes for migrant workers and refugees speak for themselves. In the UK, Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policies have deprived British citizens from migrant families of livelihoods and safety. Some have faced threats of deportation, a situation similar to that facing the children of Vietnam War refugees in the US.

Fry calls for identifying a “new enemy” of the people: misleading information like the false claim that the NHS would save 350 million pounds a week after Brexit and the repeated lies in the U.S. about undocumented immigrants, crime, and terrorism. “Perception of crime levels,” he says, “has become completely detached from reality,” especially since the biggest security threats come from hate crimes and right-wing violence, a situation reported on, warned about, and ignored, for several years.

As in the US, so in the UK: relentlessly repeated claims about “invasions” has created a very hostile environment for millions of people. Are the facts likely to sway those voters who were carried away by excesses of hate and fear? Probably not. But those who care about the truth should pay attention to Fry’s debunking. The facts about immigration and other issues used to sell far right policies and politicians, as he outlines in these videos, are entirely different than what Brexit leaders and their counterparts in the US want the public to believe.

Related Content:

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George Orwell Identifies the Main Enemy of the Free Press: It’s the “Intellectual Cowardice” of the Press Itself

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (7)
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  • steve lindsey says:

    I am a brit living in Brussels, Brexit may affect me severely. These Stephen Fry videos are just as one sided as the rest of the propaganda that has been pouring out of both sides. Poor show and we deserve better.

  • Tony says:

    Since the referendum, many of those who voted to remain (the vasy majority of the Establishment and broadcast media) have constantly and consistently impuned the motives of those who voted to leave. Stepehen Fry, a committed remainer, inveitably falls into the same trap.

    Just because he thinks he’s clever, and sounds posh, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s so. And I was at Cambridge with him, so I know.

    The European Union is a political construct that seeks to bring all the countries of Europe into a single polity. That has been its objective since its formation (“ever closer union”) and remains its objective today. Papers released under the 30 year rule from the period around the UK’s accession (see Foreign Office file FCO 30/1048, paragraph 26*) show that British politicians and civil servents were fully aware of that objective. But during the 1973 referendum campaign, the British people were told it was a ‘common market’ and that it would have no effect on sovereignty.

    Over 40 years later, we are now at the stage where a single currency has been imposed on various populations whithout their consent (see the effects on Greece, Spain, Italy etc); where entire countries have had unelected leaders imposed upon them (Italy, Greece); where a European army is being created without popular consent; and (as Tweeted by the commission only yesterday**) where they seek to make tax raising powers a ‘European competence’ subject to qualified majority voting (how will Ireland fare when they lose the power to maintain their competive corporate tax rates?).

    The EU’s executive (the Commission) is appointed, not elected – and its legislature (the EU parliament) has no power to propose legislation. So complex and convoluted are the bureacracy and intra-Governmental systems of oversight, the commission has almost unlimited scope to push forward towards its objectives, while corporate lobbyists can play the system effectively squeeze smaller, more innovative companies out of the market (cf Siemens versus Dyson).

    So. Before you typecast us leavers as racists (something Theresa May, a remainer, seems also to have done), obsessed by immigration, ask yourself whether you’d allow your own country to be subsumed into such an organisation, in which your vote became increasingly worthless.

    And if you would not, kindly lay off with the insults.

    *26. To play an effective part in the Community British members of the Commission and their staffs and British officials as negotiators will necessarily assume more political roles than is traditional in the UK. The Community, if we are to benefit to the full, will develop wider powers and co-ordinate and manage policy over wider areas of public business. To control and supervise this process it will be necessary to strengthen the democratic organisation of the Community with the consequent decline of the primacy and prestige of the national Parliaments. The task will not be to arrest this process, since to do so would be to put considerations of formal sovereignty before effective influence and power, but to adapt institutions and policies both in the UK and in Brussels to meet and reduce the real and substantial public anxieties over national identity and alienation from government, fear of change and loss of control over their fate which are aroused by talk of the “loss of sovereignty”

    ** @EU_Commission
    Currently, tax measures must be adopted unanimously by EU countries.
    We are launching a debate on reforming the decision-making process on taxation.
    Find out the 6 reasons why we suggest a transition to #QualifiedMajority ↓

  • Tony says:

    Oh, and honestly, I’m not sure that posting highly subjective political videos is what this site should be about.

    ps apologies for all the typos in my previous comment.

  • steve lindsey says:

    Well said

  • Jonathan collins says:

    Amazing to think that people would actually want to be ruled by an unelected beauractacy in another country! But I guess nowadays you’re “racist” if you don’t like migrants pouring into your country unassimilated, with no intentions of ever becoming proper citizens of their “adopted” country. My bad!

  • Tony says:

    The text above introducing the videos claims that “The Vote Leave campaign director now describes the referendum as a “dumb idea.” ” It links to a hit piece in a remain-supporting newspaper.

    Trouble is, it’s not true. Why don’t you try reading the orginal, written by the Campaign Director himself. You can find his very thoughtful blog at

  • JV says:

    I love Stephen Fry, but this video is a disappointingly simplistic and possibly disingenuous reading of the motivations of movements like Brexit.

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